An (Almost) Comprehensive Guide to Coffee Jargon
Written by Alexandros
Specialty coffee is sometimes thought to serve only an elitist community of coffee drinkers, inherently excluding those less knowledgeable about coffee from the conversation. Here at Cartwheel, we believe that everyone should be involved in the conversation and have the opportunity to try and buy specialty coffee. That’s why we’re releasing this (almost) comprehensive list of coffee terminology in order to help give you a leg up in your next coffee chat, to prove that specialty coffee really is available for everyone!
AA – A coffee grading term that refers to a specific, larger than normal, bean size.
Acidity – A pleasant tartness in coffee, that often carries the high notes of flavour.
Aerobic – Aerobic fermentation simply means, performed in oxygen. This is how typical fermentation takes place, when cells metabolize sugars via fermentation in the presence of oxygen.
Aeropress – A device for brewing coffee, using a plunger and filter paper.
Affogato – Traditionally a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, covered with a shot of espresso.
Americano – See Long Black.
Anaerobic – Anaerobic fermentation simply means, lacking in oxygen. It is believed that the lack of oxygen helps to control the environment, resulting in more fruit flavours and sweetness in the coffee beans.
Arabica – Arabica is a common species of coffee bean, around 70% of the worlds coffees are arabica. It can be broken down into two varieties, Typica and Bourbon. See Typica.
Aroma – The smell released from freshly ground or brewed coffee.
Barista – The Italian term for a skilled, experienced espresso bar operator.
Bean – The seed inside a coffee cherry which is ground to produce the coffee.
Black and White – This is a tasting flight, commonly called a Barista’s Breakfast – it contains an espresso and a cortado. See Tasting Flight.
Bladed Grinder – Bladed grinders are typically advertised for nuts and spices and are not recommended for coffee. See Burrs.
Blend – A mixture of two or more single-origin coffees.
Body – The perceived thickness, richness, or viscosity of brewed coffee.
Brew Bar – The station that is worked on by a team of baristas in a café.
Brew Board – The Brew Board is a peg board, found at both of our cafe locations, showing this week’s offering of pourovers! See Pourover.
Brew Method – An espresso and a pourover from the same coffee. See Pourover.
Burrs – A type of mill, inside a grinder, used to grind coffee between two revolving abrasive surfaces separated by a set distance.
Cafetière – A device for brewing coffee, using a plunger and a mesh filter.
Caffeine – A chemical stimulant found in coffee which stimulates the central nervous system.
Cappuccino – A coffee drink made with espresso, texturized milk and milk foam.
Catuai - The Catuai variety of coffee has been in production for over four decades, and while it’s no longer a novelty on the market, it’s valued for its high yields, reliable quality, and potential profitability for producers.
Chai – A combination of black tea with aromatic herbs and spices, typically consumed in a Chai Latte, made with foamed milk.
Channelling – When water finds a specific narrow path through the puck of coffee grounds, instead of flowing through the entire bed evenly.
Chemex – A glass, hourglass shaped filter brewer, which uses much thicker filter papers in order to remove more of the coffee oils to deliver a ‘cleaner’ cup of coffee.
Cherry – The fruit that surrounds a coffee bean, typically removed before drying.
Coarse – A large grind size used for immersion brewers, such as Chemex, Cafetiere, or Kalita.
Colour Change – The first noticeable change in the roasting process, where the beans turn from green to a light yellow.
Cooperative – A group of coffee producers cooperating to gain better access to resources, leverage better prices, and produce higher quality coffee.
Cortado – Similar to an espresso, a single shot of coffee with an equal shot of steamed milk.
CQI – The Charted Quality Institute is the body that oversees the training and certification of Q-graders. See Q-Grader.
Crema – The thin layer of foam that forms at the top of a freshly brewed espresso.
Cupping – A tasting method used to discern the quality and flavours of a coffee.
Dalgona – A recently popular form of iced coffee, created by whipping instant coffee with sugar.
Dark Roasted – Dark roasted coffee is often roasted to the second crack stage, it is a very dark brown coloured bean, typically found in most high-street coffee shops. We like to use a lighter roast, as it preserves more of the delicate flavours.
Decaf – A coffee that has been produced using particular methods to remove the caffeine.
Defect – A defect can be any kind of inclusion in the coffee beans after import – such as an imperfect bean, ie. a quaker, or sticks and stones – which are removed after roasting. See Quaker.
Destoner – A destoner is a machine that filters out defects from the roast, leaving a cleaner and safer final product for customers.
Dial In – The process of programming an espresso machine to perfect the extraction rate of a coffee.
Doser – A doser delivers the perfect amount of grinds from the grinder, and can often be tailored by the barista by weight.
Dripper – A flat bottomed brewing device with dripping holes to allow a controlled extraction.
Dry Mill – Usually a place where all the wet mills sell their coffee, in vast warehouses in the cities – with extremely expensive processing equipment. (See Wet Mill).
Espresso – Typically a single shot of black coffee, with no extra water added.
Espresso Machine – The espresso machine is the main piece of coffee equipment in our cafes, it holds the portafilter and milk frother, everything we need to produce all of our espresso-based drinks.
Extraction – Extraction is the process of coffee solubles being absorbed by the brewing water. See Solubles.
Fermentation – The action of enzymes developing flavours within a coffee bean over time.
Fine – This is the smallest grind size available used for Moka pots and espresso machines, this is the perfect size of grind that is extracted quickly – so it is not over extracted.
First Crack – First crack is a roasting stage very close to the end of our roasting times, which happens when the beans begin to swell and crack. It is a lighter roast, as compared to a second crack dark roast. See Dark Roasted.
Flat White – A coffee drink topped with a thin ‘flat’ layer of steamed milk.
Flavour – The flavour of a coffee is often thought of as a holistic experience – combining all elements of the drink, from the aroma to the mouthfeel.
French Press – See Cafetière.
Green Coffee – Beans that have not yet been roasted and are essentially ‘raw’.
Grinder – A grinder breaks down the coffee beans into smaller pieces called grinds, these come in a variety of sizes for different uses. See Course and Fine.
Grinds – The product of grinding whole bean coffee into a course powder, ready for brewing.
Group Head – The group head is often seen as the heart of the espresso machine, it disperses the water over the coffee grounds and it is essential that it is well maintained for a perfect espresso.
Head Roaster – A member of staff who is trained to monitor the length and depth of roast in coffee.
Homogenised – We often use this word to describe the flavour of dark roasted coffee, it simply means uniform or similar – in this case, one-note.
Honey – A process of coffee production that ferments the beans with the cherry still attached.
Iced Coffee – Typically an espresso poured over ice and topped with cold milk.
Japanese Iced Brew – A pourover coffee that is brewed hot, directly over ice.
Kalita – A brand name used synonymously with their Wave Dripper brewing device. See Dripper.
Latte – A coffee drink made using steamed milk and a light layer of foam.
Latte Art – The creation of ‘art’ designs and symbols using the contrast of milk and coffee, in a latte.
LDPE – Low Density Polyethylene is the plastic that our coffee bags are made from, it is 100% recyclable at plastic bag recycling plants or supermarkets.
Long Black – Another term for Americano, this is essentially an espresso diluted with hot water.
Macerated – Maceration is a process of fermentation, which involves fermenting the coffee beans in sealed bags or containers before the drying process.
Maillard – The Maillard reaction is the process of browning which happens in all foods, it is also a stage of our roasting process which occurs when the coffee beans begin to turn brown, from yellow.
MASL – Metres Above Sea Level, describes the altitude at which coffee has been grown at its origin.
Micro Lot – Coffee from a single farm, or from a specific part of the coffee farm.
Mocha – A coffee based hot chocolate drink.
Moka Pot – A Moka pot, also described as a stove-top espresso maker, it extracts the espresso at a relatively low pressure. It works by passing pressurised steam through the coffee grounds.
Mucilage – Mucilage is a thick substance that is produced by most plants, it forms around coffee beans in the honey-process which gives these beans their sweetness.
Municipality – A Municipality is a town or district that has a local government, we usually use this term to describe the place a certain cooperative comes from.
Natural – A way of processing coffee which doesn’t remove the fruit from the coffee before drying.
Nitro-flushing – How we keep our coffee fresh, by removing oxygen and filling our bags with nitrogen.
Oat Milk – A milk substitute made from extracting plant material from oats, using water.
OTR – Meaning, Oxygen Transfer Rate, describes the rate at which oxygen can pass through a given material. This is why we use plastic for our coffee bags instead of paper, as plastic has a low OTR and paper has a high OTR.
Over extraction - Fine grounds have a much larger surface area, meaning the brewing water can more easily enter and exit the coffee, taking the soluble coffee with it. Removing too much of some compounds will result in over extraction. Over extracted coffee will taste bitter, and the final brew will taste too strong.
Oxidisation – The chemical change that occurs in coffee beans when exposed to oxygen. See Stale.
Pache – Pache is another coffee bean variety – it is a natural variation of the Typica variety. We have a pache blend on the store at the moment, Velo De Noiva. See Typica.
Palate – The palate is a combination of receptors in the mouth that detect flavours, this is what allows you to taste the notes in our coffees and decide which you like!
Parchment – A thin papery layer that is often removed from the coffee bean before roasting.
Portafilter – The device that holds grounds and is inserted into the machine to produce espresso.
Pourover – A coffee drink produced slowly by pouring water directly over grounds, in a dripper.
Producer – A producer is the name we commonly give to the coffee grower or farm owner that produces the coffee we import.
Pulping – The process of removing fruit from the outside of a coffee bean.
Q-Grader – Someone who is credentialed by the CQI to grade and score coffee to industry standards.
Quaker – A defective coffee bean that doesn’t take to roasting, remaining pale.
Quality Control – QC usually happens at origin where importers help to ensure that farmers keep their equipment clean, maintain their crop, and produce the best quality coffee they can.
Raft – The collection of coffee grounds that floats at the top of a brewer or cup.
Roasting – The process of turning green coffee into the final coffee product, using heat.
SHB – Strictly Hard Bean is typically an arabica coffee that is grown above 1300 MASL. This is opposed to Soft Bean which is grown below that.
Short Black – An espresso diluted with hot water, but less water than an Americano or Long black. See Long Black.
Shot – A single serving of espresso, either served alone or poured into a drink.
Single Origin – Single origin coffees are pinnacle of what we produce: unique and exciting micro-lots sourced from a specific farm, community or cooperative.
Solubles – Coffee solubles are various chemical compounds, oils and acids that give a coffee its flavour.
Sourcing – Sourcing is the process of building integral relationships with importers, and even occasionally going directly to origin on sourcing trips – with the sole purpose of locating coffee to buy and import.
Specialty – A pursuit for the highest quality of coffee available, specifically used to refer to coffee that is graded 80 points or above on a 100 point scale by a certified Q-Grader. See Q-Grader.
Spent Grinds – The remaining wet grinds after a coffee has been brewed.
Spro – A shortened version of the word espresso. See Espresso.
Spro and Tonic – Described as a ‘coffee lemonade’, this is a tasty combination of espresso and tonic water!
Stale – A coffee bean that has been oxidised and lost its flavour and aroma.
Subscription – A subscription offers you the best of this month’s coffees, hand-picked by our Head Roaster, on a rolling subscription at a rate that suits you.
Tamper – A device used to flatten and compress coffee grounds in a portafilter. See Portafilter.
Tasting Card – The little information card that we attach to all our coffee bags and pourovers.
Tasting Flight – A term used in wine tasting, meaning a selection of short drinks to try multiple options at once. See Black and White + Brew Method.
Tasting Notes – The perceived flavours that are present in a coffee.
Texture – The technical term used when steaming milk to the desired viscosity.
Traceability - In coffee, traceability is quite simply the ability to trace where and when the product was produced and by whom. Often it means that other important information is captured and is available such as prices paid to producers, the locations of mills, dates of harvesting and other processes leading up to exportation and shipping.
Turning Point - The turning point is the first stage of the roast after dropping the beans. It occurs when the internal roasting heat stops falling and starts increasing instead.
Typica – Typica is a variety of Arabica coffee, it is not as commonly grown anymore, but can still be found in all coffee-producing countries. We have a few Typica blends on our store at the moment: Tau-Rema, Velo De Novia, and Cerro Malé.
Under extraction - This occurs when water isn’t in contact with coffee for long enough or coffee grounds are too coarse - the brewing water hasn’t absorbed enough coffee solubles. Under-extracted coffee doesn’t carry much flavour, it is weak and it can taste sour and acidic because acids dissolve faster than sugars.
V60 – A cone shaped, home-brewing device with internal ridges that help with air flow during the brewing process. It uses a filter paper and course ground coffee to brew.
Washed – A way of processing coffee that removes the fruit and mucilage, then fermented in water.
Wet Mill – Usually built by people in the community, and made from wood and corrugated iron, wet mills process coffee cherries.
Whole Bean – The conventional way that we sell our coffee, un-ground, as the beans are kept intact.